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More fathers seeking equal child custody rights

In the past, when parents split up, it was widely assumed that the mother would get full custody of the children. In many cases, the most a father could hope for was to “visit” with his children regularly.

Today, however, societal attitudes about parenting and gender roles have evolved considerably. Since 1989, for example, the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States has nearly doubled. In keeping with that trend, more and more fathers are fighting to play a more active role in their children’s lives after divorce.

A recent analysis of court records in Wisconsin showed that divorced mothers received sole custody about 80 percent of the time in 1986, compared to 42 percent of the time in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of cases involving equal shared custody increased from just 5 percent to 27 percent. Still, for many fathers seeking equal treatment in child custody matters, it remains an uphill struggle.

In Minnesota, neither parent is supposed to be given preference in child custody determinations based on gender alone. Instead, judges are required to consider a wide variety of factors to arrive at a parenting arrangement that he or she believes would be in the child’s best interests.

However, both in Minnesota and elsewhere, judges vary widely in their ability to set aside their personal biases and assumptions when making child custody determinations. Though not always intentional, these underlying attitudes can affect the decision-making process, potentially putting one parent – often the father – at an unfair disadvantage. To help level the playing field and protect their parental rights, fathers may benefit from the help of a lawyer with experience advocating on behalf of fathers in child custody cases.

Source: USA Today, "More dads demand equal custody rights," Sharon Jayson, June 14, 2014

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